Swidlife’s 20 Best Albums of 2022

    As we look back on the year in music, it’s clear that it has been a fantastic year for albums. Some of the most highly regarded releases of the year have been those that push the boundaries of genre conventions and showcase the creativity and artistry of the artists involved. From Smino’s Luv 4 Rent to Mavi’s Laughing So Hard It Hurts, there have been many standout releases that have captured the hearts of fans and critics alike. In addition to these releases, there have also been many exciting and innovative albums from rising acts, such as Al-Doms’ PRESCRIBED OVERDOSE and SwaVay’s ALMETHA’S SON. Overall, it’s been a great year for music, and we can’t wait to see what next year brings.

    Here are Swidlife’s selections for the 20 best albums of 2022:

    MAVI — Laughing so Hard, it Hurts

    Image via kightek

    Release Date: October 14

    The latest project from Charlotte, NC’s prodigal son is one of the best projects to be released this year. It is a highly personal exercise of observational awareness where Mavi actively takes in the world and the industry moving around him. He then shares his unique perspective from the center of the whirlwind, spitting it out onto a canvas. The duality presents itself on tracks like “Quiet on Set,” which can also serve as a reflective experience. It can offer any 20-something a frame to identify the important people, places, and things in their own lives. Between sharing his escapades on tour and navigating a flourishing career, Mavi takes breaks. On “Having My Way,” the gratitude becomes the recognition of a well-deserved accomplishment after grinding for so long. — Michael. 

    Smino — Luv 4 Rent

    Image via Phillip Youmans

    Release Date: October 28

    Speaking of that particular feeling of personal excellence. The (accurately) self-proclaimed coolest man alive put out a piece of art that rivals Basquiat. Instead of paint, Smino free-form ice-skates all over this album with the grace of Yuna Kim. If T-Pain had made a new form of self-expression for the south, Smino would have taken the next step and created a piece of high art rivaling any past and present artists. This whole faction of ‘alternative’ artists that often works alongside one another is creating the benchmark any future artist has to match or, if possible, surpass. — Michael 

    A$AP ANT — Lil Black Jean Jacket 3

    Image via Anti

    Release Date: May 11

    Sprinkled with unexpected and expertly executed features, LBJJ3 is the embodiment of braggadocio. Success comes in many forms, but as far as ANT is concerned, he wanted it and got it his way. With that in effect, comfort, stability, and luxury seem enough to most. But the project balances the constant flexing with his still existent hustle mentality, especially on “High Definition 3D.” Every feature matches that energy; while unexpected, it just makes sense notable artists with the same mentality, like Curren$y, Larry June, Rocky, and Soduh, mesh perfectly with the motif. — Michael 

    NoCap — Mr. Crawford

    Image via publicist

    Release Date: April 29

    It’s no surprise NoCap has become a household name, and if he isn’t at your house, you should probably pack your bags. After a 2-year hiatus, The Backend Child is free and crafted a masterpiece. Mr. Crawford’s intro track sees him step outside the generalized boundary of the pain-rap, trap drill box placed on upcoming rappers from the hood. It’s reminiscent of Wayne, Future, or Meek’s most experimental tracks. Of course, NoCap still gets into these bags throughout the project, praising the people who helped him through the struggle and praying to the people he lost along the way. The peak of his blues-rap fusion comes on “Vaccine (Falling Star).” This project’s strongest part is NoCap’s signature flows and wordplay. On top of that, being a long-awaited project, it could have been anything, but it seems far more polished than a laundry list of crowd-pleasers. — Michael

    Ben Reilly — Freelance: Charlie

    Image via BANVOA

    Release Date: July 27

    Hip hop today encompasses a wide range of sounds, making it easy to get lost exploring its various subgenres. While many artists become experts in one particular subgenre, Ben Reilly appears to be on the path to mastering them all and becoming a connecting force within the entire genre. A wavy B-side companion piece to his critically acclaimed 2021 project Freelance, Ben Reilly’s Freelance: Charlie, was definitely one of my favorite albums of the year. This album could easily disjoint in the wrong hands, but Reilly’s skillful direction keeps everything cohesive. It is impressive that he accomplished such an ambitious project early in his career, and it is clear that this is just the beginning of what he is capable of. The album gives us the impression that he could go in any direction, and I’m excited to see where his talent takes him. — Mally

    TiaCorine — I Can’t Wait

    Image via fart.pdf

    Release Date: September 9

    North Carolina’s TiaCorine is finally starting to gain the recognition that she deserves. With a musical style that is just as diverse as it is original, her album, I Can’t Wait, showcased her animated and energetic flow across 15 tracks that range from upbeat and guitar-driven to smooth and sample-based. I Can’t Wait is a genuinely refreshing and enjoyable listen that sets TiaCorine apart as one of the most promising emerging artists of the year. It is lighthearted and addicting, with a unique blend of styles that keeps the listener engaged from start to finish. With her boundless talent and originality, TiaCorine is definitely an artist to watch out for in the new year. — Mally 

    Earl Sweatshirt — SICK!

    Image via Tidal

    Release Date: January 14

    SICK! was another impressive release from Earl Sweatshirt, showcasing his ability to continuously morph and mold song structures to suit his own unique style. The album features candid and coded lyrics set against jazz-inspired beats, with Sweatshirt delivering his most confident performance yet. Despite tackling difficult and often troubling subject matter, the album finds hope and catharsis amid the feelings of dread and isolation brought on by the COVID pandemic. SICK! is a concise and introspective collection of carefully constructed raps that defies typical genre expectations. It was a strong start to the year for rap and a must-listen for Earl Sweatshirt fans. — Mally 

    Chris Patrick – X-Files

    Image via josefine

    Release Date: August 10

    Since releasing his album From the Heart, Vol. 2 in 2020, New Jersey-based artist Chris Patrick has continued to refine his skills and develop a distinctive sound that features imaginative storytelling. His 2022 album X-Files delves into themes of self-forgiveness and the challenges of dealing with depression and feelings of hopelessness. However, the album concludes on a hopeful note, celebrating love and serving as a source of inspiration for personal growth and self-acceptance. Through his music, Chris Patrick encourages listeners to embrace self-forgiveness and find hope in challenging emotions. — Mally 

    Elujay — Circmvnt

    Image via Khuf

    Release Date: January 21

    It is challenging to maintain cohesion while synthesizing a variety of musical styles. On Circmvnt, Elujay shows pure passion and respect for his stylistic predecessors, adding a modern twist to traditional conventions. Splashes of new jack swing, reggae, house, and R&B graciously color the album’s palette. Spacey interludes guide the listener throughout these swift shifts, preventing the changes from feeling too abrupt. “Ratrace” and “1080p” stand out in their subdued moodiness. While both songs bear a rich emotional complexity, this does not interfere with either song’s unmistakable danceability. While discussing love, anxiety, and Covid-19, Elujay finds a way to pay homage to his musical forbearers, seamlessly circumventing and reforming musical customs. — Andy 

    Wakai — To a Dark Boy

    Image via Wakai

    Release Date: March 25

    Very many artists chase authenticity to little avail. Frankly, authenticity is not something you can chase, you either have it, or you don’t. On To A Dark Boy, Wakai’s authenticity, charisma, and undiluted approach to music shine bright. The project is characterized by buttery flows, dense rhyme schemes, swung drums, and slick melodic undertones. Wakai discusses overcoming obstacles, loneliness, and love refreshingly and creatively, often utilizing subtle metaphors to represent abstract concepts. This is evident in “Starter Jacket,” the album’s standout single. With production courtesy of Kirti Pandey, the track sounds like a piece of candy, supplemented by Wakai offering his love interest the opportunity to wear his “most prized possession,” his thrifted Starter jacket. To A Dark Boy is the perfect album for a stroll under a cloudless sky. — Andy 

    $ilkMoney — I Don’t Give a Fuck About This Rap Shit, Imma Just Drop Until I Don’t Feel Like It Anymore

    Image via saiya.4k

    Release Date: November 15

    Rapping is an art form heavily reliant on balance. Delivery, cadence, lyricism, and flow are a few characteristics that can make for a stellar rapper. Good rappers amalgamate all of these characteristics but tend to have one that sticks out. For $ilkMoney, his dense lyricism, rapid-fire flows, and bellowing voice all hold equal weight. This is most evident in his latest, loquaciously titled project, I Don’t Give a Fuck About This Rap Shit, Imma Just Drop Until I Don’t Feel Like It Anymore. (I will abbreviate this to IDGAFATRSIJDUIDFLIA for brevity’s sake.) Executively produced by Kahlil Blu, the album is sonically, lyrically, and spiritually ubiquitous but still manages to sound cohesive. Although jarring at moments, IDGAFATRSIJDUIDFLIAIDGAF, is one of 2022’s most refreshing releases, characterized by unapologetic audacity and passion. Just make sure to keep a dictionary handy while you listen. — Andy 

    Sækyi — Angels Don’t Call Me

    Image via alina

    Release Date: October 11

    Being versatile for the hell of it is not a sign of one’s talent. Versatility should serve a purpose. Songs that deviate from one’s typical output should not feel as though they were made for the sake of being versatile. On Angels Don’t Call Me, Sækyi fluidly showcases his versatility, with emotionally incisive writing and compelling vocal performances reflecting his undeniable talent. As a rapper, tracks like “The Forgotten” and “Pressure” display Sækyi’s knack for adaptable flows and vulnerable songwriting. As a singer, tracks like “Angels Don’t Call Me” and “If You Must Go” showcase Sækyi’s penchant for crafting strong hooks. This album strays from drowning in its despair, thriving in its relatability and dazzling in its sonic luster. — Andy 


    Image via Al-Doms

    Release Date: September 21

    Al-Doms took 2022 by storm. His project, PRESCRIBED OVERDOSE, is an impressive display of musicianship. Doms showcased a level of lyricism that cannot be easily duplicated. The world-class production we witness assists in the high replay value. This is all before mentioning the “passing of the torch” moment by Pusha-T on the boastful record, “HAHA.” Another unforgettable moment is the final track, “SINCERELY.” Aside from reading the lyrics, we’re privy to a personal record where Al-Doms leaves it all on the table. With an impressive run of prodigious singles, intricate cover art stirring the conversation, and an all-around performance, Al-Doms is a major player to watch in the new year. — Alex 

    SwaVay — ALMETHA’S SON

    Image via SwaVay

    Release Date: October 21

    An eclectic rhymer, Swavay’s ALMETHA’S SON is filled with moments, star features, and earthy records highlighting the Atlanta native’s artistry. There’s a maturity shown in this project not seen in his previous works, which ultimately means progression was a theme in 2022. ALMETHA’S SON is light-hearted but fierce in the same sense. The project itself is cunning and worth every minute of a listen. — Alex 

    YoDogg & Cardo — Raised By Wolves

    Image via YoDogg

    Release Date: July 15

    An explosive lyricist, YoDogg’s Raised By Wolves is a stellar introduction to an artist who’s on his way to becoming a household name. With a major assist from legendary producer Cardo, YoDogg proves he will be a hot commodity for a long time. A record like “Fonyuns” is the tone-setter possessing every quality listeners are privy to witnessing from a gritty and talented rapper. On the final track, “All Wolves Go To Heaven,” we are privileged to the full stardom of the emerging talent. Thrilling razor-sharp verses completing a prodigious production style equates the project as one of this year’s best. — Alex 

    mynameisntjmack — The Lords of Sounds and Lesser Things

    Image via Oscar Diaz Jr

    Release Date: May 20

    As radiant as they come, mynameisntjmack is duality at its finest. His latest project, The Lords of Sounds and Lesser Things, is quite the introduction if you need to become more familiar with a musician filled with character. The project utilizes an array of instrumentation to compliment his incomparable rhymes. He switches between tones while reciting powerful verses as he does on “Dove$Bleed.” If you need to become more familiar with mynameisntjmack, you should be, as The Lords of Sounds and Lesser Things is phenomenal from beginning to end. — Alex 

    Tony Shhnow — Reflexions

    Image via imcnctd

    Release Date: June 3

    I need to start playing the lottery more because I felt like one of the few who predicted that Atlanta native and SoundCloud superstar Tony Shhnow was set to have a breakout year. Boy, was I right. His “street album,” Reflexions, put everybody on notice for a good reason. Somehow he brought the essence of mixtapes into his albums, showing that authentic trap music is alive and here to stay. — Tyler 

    Destroy Lonely — No Stylist

    Image via Destroy Lonely

    Release Date: August 12

    If you can’t tell by now, I’m a huge fan and advocate of Atlanta’s promising rap scene, and Destroy Lonely is easily one of the frontrunners helping lead the way. When he dropped NOSTYLIST, the world stopped for a moment due to its impressive originality. He has the potential to be the next face of rap, along with the likes of Playboi Carti or Future, for being in a unique lane of his own. — Tyler

    Elijah LeFlore — Sunset Radio

    Image via Elijah LeFlore

    Release Date: January 25

    As one of the primary curators for Swidlife, it would be downright criminal not to include at least one R&B project that caught my attention this year. If you appreciate alternative R&B, I highly recommend Elijah LeFlore’s Sunset Radio. He has one of the most comforting voices that immediately give you nostalgic vibes. It perfectly blends two genres that I already love. — Tyler

    Booney & SMIFFNWE$ — Still Dreamin

    Image via Booney & SMIFFNWE$

    Release Date: September 13

    I am a sucker for joint projects because it’s damn near challenging to be on the same wave creatively, so I commend anyone able to do it for a whole project. One joint project I have revisited a lot this year is Booney and SMIFFNWE$’ Still Dreamin. “Still At It” perfectly showcases their chemistry as they go back and forth, trading blows on the smooth production. 


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